I’m a writer of fantasy. This is the genre in which I have always wanted to work, into which my intuition and imagination have drawn me. I cannot conceive of doing anything else.
There is much to be learned from other genres: the well crafted misdirect of murder mystery, the connection of human experience across time in historical fiction, the emotive thrill of romance, the capturing of moments in literary fiction, the propulsive plotting of the thriller, the down in the dirt immediacy of military fiction, the exploration of ideas in science fiction, the creeping shift of consciousness in horror, the lush atmospherics of the gothic, and so many more. (But wait! Buy this boxed set and get these three limited edition graphic novels free!)
If I had to write in other genres I think I could jump into crime or mystery most easily, science fiction with some effort, historical fiction with a lot of research. (Fantasy requires quite a bit of research, but not to the level of detail demanded by historical fiction.) Maybe not horror, but gothic noir would be something I’d enjoy doing, undoubtedly with supernatural elements, so it would become fantasy in sumptuous crushed velvet skin.
Now that last is the truth: I could write any genre, as long as I mixed a little fantasy in. I think if I want to try out the techniques typical of other genres it is likely I will approach them through the prism of fantasy.
I admire writers that can hop genres, and write convincingly in more than one. If you have the story in you that requires a particular form, I imagine it would be natural to write in the genre that best expresses the story you want to write. But I believe I’m a one genre man, and cleave to fantasy (in all its variety) I shall, but I think the lessons, the strengths of all the genres listed above (and many more… keep reading for 30 more seconds to receive a very special offer…) can be incorporated into fantasy. Certainly I, in my more maniacal moments, imagine I could do so.
For example, I have written twenty six thousand words of a contemporary and literary novella that rapidly showed me it had no intention of remaining slim and novellaesque (yes, I know), but for all its realism, the main premise was a fractured conversation between our heroine and Lucifer, (that may have been real, or a symptom of mental distress – I left it for the reader to decide) so let’s be honest, it was a fantasy, because that is where I’m most comfortable, but I was trying to capture some of the moments of life that literary fiction allows the reader to identify with so strongly, as well as the lingering sense of “What is real?”, so prevalent in the psychological thriller. I have plenty to say in the fantasy field, but I want to learn from other genres, first by reading them, second by implementing what I have seen into my own favoured medium. There is a lot to learn from trying other forms, but I don’t think I want to stray too far from my passion when experimenting with other genres in order to expand my own writing range.
What do you think? Can genre writers learn from other fields? Should they? Are genre distinctions useful today when you look for books to read?