« The Plot Against Roosevelt | Main | The Million Writers Award returns »

January 04, 2005


Elaine Flinn

Between Laura's letter and Sarah's additions, what the hell else could be added? Except that I've always considered 'literature' a label reviewers are wont to use simply because it makes them appear erudite. Merriam defines 'literature' as 'the production of written works having excellence of form or written expression and dealing of ideas with permanent interest.' I rest my case.

Trey R. Barker

Having spent the largest part of my career so far in horror/speculative fiction, this concept of transcending genre has come up before (and not always in drunken conversations in strange bars in Atlanta or Monterey).

I agree with what Ms. Weinman has said, it's not about reinventing the wheel, it's about knowing whether or not, as a writer, you know how to use that wheel.

I do not consider myself a crime writer or horror writer or anything else, I'm just a writer. Sometimes I do fiction, sometimes I do non-fiction, sometimes I do poetry (usually badly).

The various 'wheels,' are simply tools each and every writer should explore. Ghosts, cops, cat ladies, whatever the strictures are, they are tools all good writers should look at.

Basically, what I'm saying is, try every single tool, or wheel, out there. Figure out which one makes your story the best story it can be. If that means your story is best within genre parameters, great. If that means you want to live exclusively outside those parameters, great.

Try everything, figure out what works, and go from there.



Ultimately I think that's why it is so, so important to read. And then read some more. And then just when you think you haven't read enough, keep reading, even if it yields some interesting surprises--like, for example, reading a certain subgenre of crime fiction even if you have no business trying to write like that.

Because in the end, unless you are a freak of nature, nobody likes a gatecrasher. To any book-related party, genre or otherwise.

Elizabeth Bear

nobody likes a gatecrasher


I think it's absolutely vital to read outside one's own genre, as well--as much or more so as reading inside it. Even if one considers one's self a proud genre writer, transcendent or otherwise.

Breadth is good.

Elaine Flinn

By the way - what the hell are mystery/crime/thriller/suspense writers supposed to be 'transcending'? It's not that I'm totally dense, it's just that I've never been able to make the distinction. Either you're good - or you're not.

Jim Winter

Story first. Labels later.

Keith Snyder

Coffee first. Story second. Labels who cares.

Bill Peschel

Nonsense. Speaking from a reader's point of view, one who has plowed through books from Berkley Prime Crimes and St. Martin's Press about caterers finding bodies along the sea shore and divorced women taking minimum wage jobs finding bodies in the businesses and hard-bitten, alcoholic cops walking the mean streets after the serial killer who's now targeting his girlfriend, "transcending genre" is quick-and-dirty way of telling the reader what kind of book it is. Writers may object to it, especially those who work within the confines and turn out especially good work, but it's still a useful phrase.

The only way the phrase will go away is when so many crime novels "ttg" that it becomes a useless phrase, and reviewers will have to find some other way to distinguish the book from the other unique works out there.


I have always taken it for granted that "transcending genre" means either "I dislike genre novels, but this one is good" or "It's okay to like this book, even though it's a genre novel."

"Mystery novels are cheap reads." "This book isn't a cheap read, therefore it is not really a mystery novel."

The comments to this entry are closed.