The “new adult” genre and the approaching genre singularity
October 8, 2012 § 9 Comments
Yes, I understand that genres are useful because they help booksellers know where to shelve new books and readers find books similar to those they already like. That said, do we really need so many of them?
In case you’ve missed the news, the powers that be have decided to shoe-horn yet another genre in between children’s books and “adult” books (maybe I should call them “grown up books” as “adult books” sounds like 50 Shades of Gray). “New adult” is the new genre, and in case your powers of deduction are failing you today, it describes books between young adult and old adult books, (which I will henceforth just refer to as “boring books”) and as far as I can tell is basically defined by having a protagonist of late high school or early college age.
In principle there is nothing particularly wrong with this and it might actually help me eventually sell a book as this is the range I sometimes I write in. Like I said, there really are uses for genre distinctions. But I can’t help but feel that this “new adult” genre is either a) just a way to get adult readers to feel less embarrassed about reading books described as “young adult,” or b) write more salacious and “adult” scenes in YA books while still being able to maintain that they aren’t targeted to young adults.
Why can’t we just get to a place where we agree that every book is its own and defining it by its fellows constrains it as often as not? Is the defining characteristic of a book the protagonist’s age? Do we really want to pigeon-hole books based on a single factor? Am I asking too many rhetorical questions?
All these thoughts were running through my head when I realized that the problem isn’t too many genres but too few.
Bring on the genres! New adult, young adult, old adult, in-between adult, nearly-dead adult. Horror? No there are at least twenty genres crowding in there. Vampire, werewolf, Lovecraftian, aliens, noir. Let it all hang out. It’s not science fiction, it’s space opera, steampunk, cyberpunk, apocalyptic, hard sci-fi, soft sci-fi, or time travel. We’re nearing the genre singularity! The point at which we have so many genres that once again there are no genres at all, just books full of stories worth reading.
Okay. I got a little carried away. But only because I dream of an idyllic, post-singularity day where I can sit in a treehouse and read any book for any age group without pretension, while drinking a bottle of wine, .
What do you think? Do you like genre distinctions? Do we need more? Fewer? Do you feel like they help guide people to the right books or keep readers from breaking out of their established reading norms to try something new?