Sam Sykes on "the genre"

Sam Sykes, author of Tome of the Undergates (Canada, USA, Europe) and Black Halo (Canada, USA, Europe), wrote an interesting piece on the genre. Following in the wake of Leo Grin's article, I found myself agreeing with basically everything Sykes wrote. Which, in an of itself, is a bit scary! :P

Here's a teaser:

No. I don’t think “genre” is a dirty word.

Rather, I think it’s getting slightly too revered. It’s becoming my least favorite phrase in the sense that we can’t seem to have a conversation about a book without involving “the genre.” Is steampunk good or is it not part of “the genre”? Is “the genre” being destroyed by the nihilism of today? What is the work of today doing for “the genre”? Is my author more “the genre” than your author? How can I best feed “the genre”?

I write genre fiction. Specifically, I write fantasy fiction. I write fantasy fiction because I like to write fantasy fiction. I like exploring new worlds, meeting new peoples, finding out how things work on a world not my own. I wrote a book in which a dragonman beat the tar out of a wizard and fought the urge to urinate him. I wrote a character that uses the phrase “round-ear.” I don’t say I’m writing objectivist morality. I don’t scoff at the notion that I write fantasy. I don’t mind being called a nerd. Some of my favorite authors write fantasy. Some don’t. I am a fantasy writer.

And I don’t really care about “the genre.”


Rejection is a part of art. It’s not part of the creation, as creation based on rejection tends to be (but isn’t always) flimsy and unfounded. But rejection is important in that it sets us apart and makes our work unique. Most of that comes after the book is published, of course, but it can factor in prior and during the creation, as well. And that’s where “fuck” comes in.

Fuck the influences, fuck the traditions, fuck the hallmarks. Fuck the way things are done. Fuck the things that tell you what to write. Fuck the definition of what is and isn’t genre, true genre or the genre. Fuck the cries for more of the same. Fuck the laments that there isn’t another Established Author Name Here. Fuck not reading something because it’s outside your comfort zone. Fuck not writing something because it’s never been done. Fuck everything


Don’t be afraid of the influences, don’t be afraid of the traditions, don’t be afraid of the hallmarks; they aren’t yours. Don’t be afraid of protocol; you don’t have to follow it. Don’t be afraid of things that tell you what to write; they aren’t writing it. Don’t be afraid of the definition of the genre; your work will occupy its own space. Don’t be afraid of people crying for the same thing they’ve always read; you aren’t writing for them. Don’t be afraid of reading and writing outside of your comfort zone; you’re never at a loss for having experimented. Don’t be afraid of anything.

Follow this link to read the full piece.

9 commentaires:

Lagomorph Rex said...

sounds like a temper tantrum to me.. more reasons not to read his book.. as if the back cover blurb didn't provide ample reason already.

Ted Cross said...

And the cover art is horrible.

SQT said...

I think I see where Sykes is coming from. I think a lot of opinions on writing or genre are rather self serving. I've read many articles that want to tell us what we should write, what we should enjoy and what our particular political consciousness should be. And it's just aggravating.

Whenever an author tells me (or anyone else) what philosophy I should be reading or reflecting in my writing, I want to do the exact opposite. Where did all these arbitrary rule makers come from?

Anonymous said...

Wow, what was that about?

"It all comes down to “because I wanted to.”

It’s a good phrase."

Only that it applies to everything, even the criticism, so we're back to who has the better arguments. And for arguments you have to accept classifications, influences, traditions, hallmarks. Not that these are "protocols", true, but you need to be aware of them.

A. R. said...

Bahaha, I love that essay just for the jab at Goodkind.

Anonymous said...

okay, lago. we all know you hate modern, more real-to-life fantasy. so why don't you do us a favor and go back to reading endless empire-state building sized piles of bullshit D&D fantasy.

Gaarheid said...

Haha cant get over it that a 25 year old gets published and you dont.

Cecrow said...

The "I don't care" attitude is a blank cheque, dismissing all inquiry into quality. Sometimes you need that as a writer to weather dark moments of self-doubt; I hope that's all it is. Claiming it as a motto can make an author sound like someone who admits they can't tell good literature from bad, or who fears his work landed on the wrong side after receiving a glimpse of insight.

Anonymous said...

He's right that genre-pride can be pretty annoying and doesn't help the quality at all. It's better to be aware of many things, and not just some tradition that you grew accustomed to in order to write the same things. It's just that his argumentative style fires in too many directions and is irritatingly emphatic. I'm still not sure if I caught the drift, but that may be just me.