The week-long event called Armchair BEA is going strong. I certainly am having a blast! Working in the middle of the fun yesterday dampened my ability to hop across the blog-o-sphere as I wish, but I plan to make up for lost time on my days off! If you are just now getting wind of the event, scroll down the page to catch up.
My blog post telling all about it: Armchair BEA Begins!
Today, as is each day this week, the topics are two-fold. Always there is a literary discussion of some kind, and since books are “my thing” I am going to start there! Bloggers participating are invited to chat about “genre fiction.” While this blog is about ME and what I like to read, I wanted to start with a definition of “genre fiction,” this from Wikipedia:
Genre fiction, also known as popular fiction, is plot-driven fictional works written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre, in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre. Genre fiction is generally distinguished from literary fiction by commonly seen genre conventions, such as the “specific settings, roles, events, and values that define individual genres and their subgenres.” These conventions, always fluid, are usually implicit, but sometimes are made into explicit requirements by publishers of fiction as a guide to authors seeking publication. There is no consensus as to exactly what the conventions of any genre are, or even what the genres themselves are; assigning of works to genres is to some extent arbitrary and subjective. Genre fiction is often dismissed by literary critics as being pure escapism, cliched, and of poor quality prose.
The first part of this definition makes sense to me, and seems to be agreed on by the intelligent-types who fret over pigeonholing these sorts of things! LOL! The last sentence – “Genre fiction is often dismissed by literary critics as being pure escapism, cliched, and of poor quality prose.” – may be true coming from certain literary snobs, but is utterly ridiculous! Just because a novel is specific to a certain genre – ie: fantasy, romance, sci-fi, western, crime, horror, inspirational – does NOT mean it is poorly written! In fact, I have read loads and loads of “genre fiction” novels that are vastly superior to some of the novels considered “classic” or “serious literature.” But that is my mini-soap box! I am happy to hear your thoughts on that aspect of the topic.
Moving on! As a reader from a very young age I, true story, do not remember ever learning to read since I think I was born with a book in my hand. LOL! Mom said I wasn’t, but I am still doubting her word on that. The library was my favorite place on my elementary school campus, and I seriously doubt there was a book in there I didn’t read. Twice. Or more. I made my way through The Hardy Boys, all of Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder, and so on. As a pre-teen I recall loving the sweet girlie-romances popular at the time and devoured the Gothic romances, such as Rebecca and everything by Victoria Holt. Early on I recall loving the stories of the Greek and Roman gods, and read Homer’s The Illiad and The Odyssey when about eight or nine (abridged versions originally, I admit). By the time I was twelve I started raiding my 6-year-older sister’s bookcases. There were many novels she took out of my hands due to mature themes (I read them later!), but it was when she handed me a copy of The Hobbit that my reading life would change.
Not instantly, though. At first I didn’t get past the second chapter! I had never read that type of fantasy before. Greek god mythology comes close, however, so as an alternative she handed me a novel titled The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart. It was the first of MANY novels on Arthurian legends I would consume in my lifetime (and in that one summer), but best of all it rearranged my mind to visualize the world of fantasy. I attempted The Hobbit again, and by the time I was thirteen had read it more than once, as well as The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Silmarillion! My passionate obsession with ALL fantasy, and to a slightly lesser degree sci-fi, was firmly established and has never waned. Reading the novels of J.R.R. Tolkien is enough to convince me down to my toes that “genre fiction” is every bit as fabulously written and important to the literary world as the works of Hawthorne, Fitzgerald, Bronte, Dickens, or, yes, even Austen.
I like to think my taste is eclectic, with a great story and wonderful characters being the deciding factor. Whether set on earth, involving real people from history, a happy story or scary one, including elves and goblins, or with space ships traveling at light speed, if the writer captures my attention, I am as happy as a pig in slop! If the author is amazing, I don’t care what genre he or she writes in, I will love it. Personally, I think Stephen King is one of, if not THE best author of my generation. So much so, in fact, that I won’t read some of his books because he is so danged good that his words scare me to death! For several decades I dissed romance after reading a number of the 1970-80 novels that bored me to tears. Then I became a writer of romantic historical fiction and picked up a few romances. My eyes were opened anew! Anyone who says romance as a genre is trashy or not well written is just plain WRONG!
So, here are some lists of my all-time favorite “genre fiction” novels. This is not exhaustive, by any means! Just take a look at this picture of my library (not all my books, I have to add) to see what I mean! Tomorrow I will name titles that fall into the broader “literary fiction” realm.
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Belgariad series (5 books) and The Mallorean series (5 books) by David Eddings – my second favorite fantasy novels of all, after Tolkien
Belgarath the Sorcerer by David Eddings
Polgara the Sorceress by David Eddings
The Dragonriders of Pern series (numerous books) by Anne McCaffrey
Faerie Tale by Raymond Feist
Harry Potter series (7 books) by JK Rowling
The Disc World novels (several dozen) by Terry Pratchett
Magic Kingdom For Sale– SOLD! by Terry Brooks, and the subsequent 5 books in the Magic Kingdom of Landover series
The Shannara series by Terry Brooks (most of them, didn’t care for them all)
The Riftwar/Midkemia novels (especially the original ones) by Raymond Feist
The Darwarth novels (5), Sun Wolf and Starhawk series (4) and Windrose Chronicles (4) by Barbara Hambly
The Arthurian series (4 novels) by Mary Stewart
The Books of Swords (3) and The Lost Books of Swords (8) by Fred Saberhagen
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
Chronicles of the King’s Tramp (3 books) by Tom de Haven
Star Wars fan-fiction novels (lots!) by assorted authors
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – in my Top Ten Best list and I am dying to see the movie!
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
Dune and Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
Horror (as close as I go!)~
The Stand by Stephen King – in my Top Five Best list
The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
Lightening and Watchers by Dean Koontz
Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
The Witching Hour by Anne Rice
Love at First Flight by Marie Force – everything Marie writes is wonderful, but this one made me cry and re-energized my love for romance
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The Dark Hunter novels, and others, by Sherrilyn Kenyon
The Highlander novels (8, I think) by Karen Marie Moning
SEALed with a Kiss by Mary Margret Daughteridge
The Wild Sight and The Treasures of Venice by Loucinda McGary
Practice Makes Perfect and Something About You by Julie James
Nocturne by Syrie James
Lord of Pleasure (and everything else) by Delilah Marvelle
Dark Highland Fire by Kendra Leigh Castle
Unleashed and Untouched by Sara Humphreys
Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare
Everything by Abigail Reynolds! Yes, she is my BFF, but it started with love of her novels!
That listing got longer than I imagined! And I forced myself to stop. 40+ years of reading material is hard to wade through and narrow down. Now, share with me your favorites within “genre fiction” and why/if a particular genre is your favorite to read.